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First Aid For Cats: Knowing The Basics May Save Your Cat’s Life

July 21, 2013

Accidents happen – and for some of our CH kitties, accidents happen often.

But when something goes wrong, do you know how to react?

If you’re not sure, that’s OK. Now’s the time to brush up on a few basics, so if and when something does happen, you’ll be able to respond in the proper way.

Photo courtesy JMS Boggio.

Before we go any farther, it’s important to mention one major fact: First aid should not replace veterinary care. That said, knowing feline first aid could mean that pet parents can help address and manage a situation until a veterinarian can be reached.

Doing a few things ahead of time can also help:

  • Take your cat regularly to the vet. Check-ups are great in terms of preventative care; plus, it’s always handy to have a vet who is familiar with your cat when a problem arises.
  • Look into emergency pet clinics in your area. You’ll want to be aware of who is available – even how much they cost – just in case you have an emergency when your regular vet isn’t open. (Don’t forget to tell the clinic that your cat has CH!)
  • Along those lines, have contact information (phone number, location, even hours) for your vet and emergency clinic both in your phone and stuck to your fridge. When there’s an emergency, every moment counts. Make sure you don’t waste precious seconds looking up your vet’s contact information.
  • Have your cat’s carrier in an easy to access location. Again, every moment counts!
  • Consider putting together a cat first aid kit. Put it near your first aid kit (it may share a few items) so you never have to look for it.

If you can get those things established ahead of time, you’ll be able to spring into action the moment something happens.

The first thing you’ll want to do when an emergency occurs is to evaluate how safe the environment is. If an accident happened in a street or in a burning building, for example, you’ll want to move the cat to a safer location. 

At that point, you’ll want to access the cat’s condition. This process is called triage, when you evaluate the problems from most severe to least severe. Some issues may be easy to spot, but others may be more difficult. Here’s a look at the process you should take:

Photo courtesy ancient history.

1. Call the cat’s name and try stroking his head. Does he respond? If not, check these three things:

  • A: Airway: Is there something in your cat’s throat obstructing his airway?
  • B: Breathing: Is the cat breathing?
  • C: Circulation: Does the cat have a pulse? If not, consider CPR.

2. If your cat does respond, you’ll want to do a few things, if possible:

  • Take your cat’s respiration rate. Cats normally breathe 20 to 40 breaths per minute.
  • Take your cat’s pulse: Place your fingertips along the inside of the thigh and find the fermoral artery in the groin area. Count for 15 seconds and multiply by four. Normal is 160 to 240.
  • Take your cat’s temperature: Normal is between 101 and 102.5 degrees F.
  • Take a look at your cat’s gums: Pale pink is normal. White gums may indicate anemia, bluish gums could mean inadequate oxygenation, and yellow gums could mean liver disease.

3. Lastly, rank the problems. Issues such as not breathing, not having a pulse, choking, bleeding severely, or being in shock take priority.

At this point, getting your cat to the vet is essential. If possible, have someone call your vet while you’re on your way so they can prepare to take your cat in the moment you get there.

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